Without a doubt, 2016 was the Year of the Pandemic. Better known as the Zika virus, the crippling disease was just one of many unusual developments that shook our entire world.
For some Silicon Valley start-ups, the past year has seen them begin with a renewed focus on their backyards.
Katia Beauchamp, co-founder and CEO of Birchbox, said she’s prioritizing home cooking to combat the worrisome rise of new viruses.
“The past year was a tsunami for emerging diseases and we were inundated with diseases that many of us have not encountered before,” she said.
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“The uptick in cases and spread of diseases have fueled our company’s interest in health and wellness to new heights — the company’s investment program this year is focused on identifying emerging diseases and leveraging technology to help tackle these emerging threats,” she said.
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Her competition: Michael Lee, co-founder and CEO of Eaze, a high-tech, on-demand delivery startup. Lee said there’s no country immune to fresh outbreaks.
“Viruses like Zika and dengue are only one example of a new, more efficient bug of the year,” he said. “This is especially true when you consider the rapidly advancing technology surrounding them.”
As the world’s population is growing ever more densely packed and common sources of disease, like pets, canaries and wild animals, we’re going to be seeing the increasing threat of pesky viral threats, he said.
“It’s no secret that Silicon Valley startups are doing their part to bring world-changing innovations to market,” Lee said. “Today, we need to hone in on creating unique solutions to some of the challenges that the world faces.”
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Like for Charlotte Hertford, founder and CEO of Don’t Breathe: She shares Lee’s vision. As the World Health Organization announced a pandemic, the start-up was launching a brand new phone app for combating self-inflicted viruses, so we’re working to create a reliable space that can support more than a selfie.
“One size does not fit all,” she said. “When it comes to battling, digitization opens new ways of looking at new problems and solutions. We’re also thrilled to be rolling out an innovative, cutting-edge alternative at a time when infectious disease has once again become the priority.”
“It is only with technology’s continued evolution that we can harness the power of AI to combat disease and make a new technology-based revolution to defeat the spread of deadly viral diseases,” Hertford said.
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But, for most of these entrepreneurs, it’s the toxic, traumatic effects of a sudden outbreak that keep them in the kitchen.
“As with any disease of the past year, humans have rallied together to bring security and relief to all who suffer as a result,” Lee said. “Although this year’s rapid pandemic efforts are incredibly impressive, technology will continue to play a vital role in overcoming those that are on the rise.”
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“As currently evolved, a big part of the threat landscape is posed by commercially available technologies,” he said. “From Uber to WhatsApp, the delivery of epidemics doesn’t require a lot of money or steam. Rather, companies need to think about how best to deliver critical public services in areas such as disease epidemics, natural disasters, and urgent humanitarian aid.”